Impressionist Painting Tips & Techniques for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Use loose brush strokes
  2. Blend colors directly on the canvas
  3. Focus on light and its changing qualities
  4. Capture the essence of the scene, not every detail
  5. Use thick paint to create texture
  6. Paint en plein air
  7. Limit your palette for cohesion
  8. Study the works of Impressionist masters

If you're just starting to explore the world of Impressionist painting, you're likely on the hunt for some valuable tips and techniques. It's a style that's captivated artists and art lovers alike for centuries. With our helpful guide, we'll walk you through some of the fundamental techniques used by the masters of Impressionism. This isn't just another one of those "impressionism painting tutorials", but a friendly chat to guide you on your journey to mastering this art form.

Use loose brush strokes

One of the defining techniques of Impressionism is the use of loose brush strokes. It's about letting go and allowing the brush to dance freely across your canvas. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Choose your brush wisely: A flat brush is a good choice for this technique. A size 6 or 8 should do the trick.
  2. Hold your brush lightly: Grasp the brush towards the end, not near the bristles. This helps you maintain a light touch and create those loose strokes characteristic of Impressionism.
  3. Use your whole arm, not just your wrist: This promotes broader, more sweeping strokes and discourages the tendency to meticulously control every little detail.

Remember, the goal is not to create a photographic replica of your subject, but to capture its essence. So, allow yourself some freedom and let your brush strokes flow. You'll find this technique liberating, and it's a fun way to add energy and movement to your paintings. And just like that, you've taken your first step in the world of impressionism painting tutorials!

Blend colors directly on the canvas

Let's talk color! In Impressionist painting, colors are often mixed directly on the canvas rather than on a palette. This gives the painting a vibrant, lively look that's hard to achieve any other way. But how do you do it? It's simpler than you think!

  1. Start with individual color patches: Instead of mixing two colors together on your palette, paint individual patches of color side by side on your canvas. For instance, if you're painting a sunset, you might have patches of red, orange, and yellow.
  2. Let each color patch touch the next one: The goal is to have each color in direct contact with the next. It’s like creating a jigsaw puzzle of colors.
  3. Blend the colors together: Use your brush to lightly blend the edges of the patches where they meet. Don't overdo it—you want to maintain some separation between the colors for that rich Impressionist look.

By blending colors directly on the canvas, you can create a vibrant, dynamic effect that's a signature of Impressionist painting. And this method isn't just for the masters—you can do it too! So, go ahead and give it a try. Who knows, your next piece might just be the talk of the town. And guess what? You're now two steps ahead in your impressionism painting tutorials journey!

Focus on light and its changing qualities

One of the things that sets Impressionist painting apart is its focus on light. More specifically, how light changes throughout the day and how it impacts the colors and mood of a scene. While this might sound complex, it's actually a fun and engaging part of impressionism painting tutorials, let's see how you can incorporate this into your painting:

  1. Observe your subject at different times of day: This doesn't have to be a marathon session. Just take a few moments at different times to note how the light changes. Is it warm and soft in the morning, harsh and bright at noon, and cool and mellow in the evening?
  2. Choose your moment: Decide which quality of light best suits your subject. A peaceful morning light might be perfect for a calm landscape, while a dramatic sunset could bring out the vibrancy in a bustling city scene.
  3. Use color to convey light: Remember our discussion about blending colors directly on the canvas? This is where it really comes into play. By choosing and blending colors carefully, you can recreate the quality of light at your chosen moment.

By focusing on light and its changing qualities, you can bring a new level of depth and realism to your Impressionist paintings. So, grab your brush and start experimenting with light—it might just illuminate your path to becoming an Impressionist master! Remember, even the most famous Impressionist painters started with the basics, just like in this impressionism painting tutorial.

Capture the essence of the scene, not every detail

In the world of Impressionist painting, it's not about capturing every minute detail. Instead, it's about expressing the essence, or the overall feel, of a scene. This might seem like a daunting task at first, especially if you're used to more detail-oriented styles. But don't worry, impressionism painting tutorials are here to guide you through this process. Here's how you can start:

  1. Start broad: Instead of diving straight into the details, begin with broad strokes to outline the basic shapes and colors of your scene. You might be surprised at how much you can convey with just a few well-placed strokes!
  2. Feel the scene: Take a moment to absorb the atmosphere and emotion of your scene. Is it peaceful, energetic, melancholic, or joyful? Let these feelings guide your brush strokes.
  3. Leave out unnecessary details: Not every leaf on a tree or brick in a wall needs to be painted. Choose the most essential elements that contribute to the overall feel of the scene, and let the rest fade into the background.

Remember, the goal is not to create a photographic replica of your scene, but to express its essence through your own unique perspective. So trust your instincts, let go of perfection, and enjoy the freedom that Impressionist painting brings!

Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't turn out as you expected. Every artist's journey is unique, and every brush stroke brings you one step closer to mastering the art of Impressionist painting. Keep practicing with these impressionism painting tutorials, and soon enough, you'll be creating your own captivating Impressionist scenes.

Use thick paint to create texture

Another exciting aspect of impressionism is the use of thick paint to create texture—a technique called "impasto." This method can add an almost three-dimensional quality to your artwork, making it pop off the canvas.

Now, you might be wondering, "How exactly do I do this?" Allow me to share a few tips from the impressionism painting tutorials I've found helpful:

  1. Apply paint liberally: Don't be shy about loading up your brush with paint. The more paint you use, the richer and more textured your artwork will be.
  2. Use a palette knife: A palette knife can be a great tool for applying thick paint. It allows you to spread the paint around easily, creating interesting textures and patterns.
  3. Experiment with brush strokes: Try different types of brush strokes to see what effects they create. Dabbing, swirling, or even dragging the brush across the canvas can all result in unique textures.

Remember, creating texture is all about embracing the physicality of the paint itself. So go ahead and play around with it. See it not just as a means to color, but as a material that you can shape and manipulate to bring your artwork to life.

Just like any other technique, mastering impasto won't happen overnight. But with patience, practice, and the help of impressionism painting tutorials, you'll soon find your own unique way of using thick paint to create stunning Impressionist artworks.

Paint en plein air

One of the iconic practices of Impressionist painters is painting en plein air, a fancy French term that simply means "outdoors." This is a fun and refreshing technique that can transform your impressionism painting journey.

But why go outside, you might ask? There's a simple yet profound reason: light. Impressionists were all about capturing the play of light and color in the real world. By painting outdoors, you get to observe and capture these elements in their purest form.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your plein air painting sessions:

  1. Pack light: You don't need to bring your entire studio outside. A small canvas, a limited palette, and a few brushes should suffice.
  2. Embrace the elements: Don't be discouraged by a cloudy day or changing shadows. These can add a unique touch to your painting.
  3. Paint quickly: The light changes fast outdoors. Try to capture the scene as swiftly as you can. It's about capturing the impression, not creating a detailed study.

Going out and painting en plein air can be a little daunting, especially if you're used to painting in the comfort of your studio. But give it a try, and you might just find it to be an enriching experience. Plus, there are plenty of impressionism painting tutorials out there to guide you on your plein air journey.

Remember, Impressionism is all about breaking the rules and capturing your unique perception of the world. So go ahead, grab your easel and paints, and step outside. Who knows? Your next masterpiece could be just a sunrise away.

Limit your palette for cohesion

A key element that can make or break your impressionist painting is color. Too many colors can create a chaotic scene, while too few can make your art seem dull. The key is to find a balance and create cohesion, which you can achieve by limiting your palette.

Limiting your palette doesn’t mean you’re restricting your creativity. On the contrary, it can actually enhance it. With fewer colors, you’re obliged to explore their full range, how they blend together, and how they react to different quantities of light. It's like an interesting puzzle you're trying to solve – and trust me, it's one that's worth solving.

  1. Choose a dominant color: This color will set the mood of your painting. For example, if you're painting a sunset, you might choose orange as your dominant color.
  2. Select a few supporting colors: These should harmonize with your dominant color. Using our sunset example, you might choose colors such as light pink, purple, and a soft yellow.
  3. Add a contrasting color: This comes into play to add some excitement and to highlight certain parts of your painting. In the sunset scenario, a deep blue might work as a contrast.

By limiting your palette, you will create a sense of unity and harmony in your painting. This does not only make your painting more visually appealing, but it also trains your eye to see and comprehend colors better.

Remember, as with any aspect of art, practice makes perfect. So don't be afraid to experiment with different palettes until you find what works best for you. And of course, there are numerous impressionism painting tutorials available to help you along the way. So, ready to immerse yourself in a world of color?

Study the works of Impressionist masters

When it comes to understanding any art form, one of the most helpful things you can do is to study the works of the masters who have come before you. With impressionism, there's a treasure trove of masterpieces to inspire you and guide your learning.

Take a look at the works of Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro, to name a few. By closely observing their paintings, you'll start to see the techniques they used to capture the essence of a scene, the play of light, or the subtleties of color. It's like stepping into a live impressionism painting tutorial, where each brush stroke has a story to tell.

Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Brushwork: Notice how the masters used loose, often visible brush strokes to create texture and movement.
  2. Color: Observe how they combined and layered colors directly on the canvas.
  3. Light: Pay attention to the way they captured the changing qualities of light and how it affects the colors in the scene.
  4. Composition: Look at how they arranged elements within the frame to create a balanced, cohesive scene.

Learning from the masters does not mean copying their style exactly. Rather, it's about understanding the principles that guided their work and interpreting these in your own unique way. It's about finding your voice within the chorus of impressionism painting tutorials. So, are you ready to learn from the best?

If you enjoyed our blog post on "Impressionist Painting Tips & Techniques for Beginners" and want to further improve your painting skills, we highly recommend the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will help you enhance your acrylic painting techniques and guide you towards creating stunning impressionist artworks.